What’s Your Why?

Why? That’s a deep, powerful question that can apply to almost anything. Kids ask why the sky is blue. Sports fans ask why the coach called a certain play. Citizens ask why politicians make the choices they do. You get the point. I’d like to focus the question on you. What’s your why? Or put another way, why do you do what you do?

I’m intrigued by the question of why having reread Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why. I encourage you to take a look at Simon sharing some thoughts on this in one of his Ted talk presentations.

Sinek builds a case that most companies lose sight of this important concept but great companies know their why and it becomes their culture. Apple, Costco, Southwest Air and Harley Davidson are a few of the great companies he refers to in the book. His perspective reminded me of Steven Covey’s idea of a personal mission statement. Covey’s idea applies to individuals because too often people go through life not knowing why they do what they do. This post isn’t about the value of a personal mission statement but if you’d like to learn more about that, read this article.

With Influence PEOPLE, my why is to help people achieve professional success and personal happiness. When it comes to professional success much of that depends on getting others to say yes to you.

That yes could be tied to a new product, procedure, strategy or any number of other initiatives in which people need to be onboard. Whatever it may be, business leaders, managers and salespeople need to get people doing what they need them to do.

On a personal level, I’m a firm believer that your home life will be much more peaceful and happy if family members willingly do what you want. Wouldn’t it be nice if your kids did their homework or chores with less resistance? Wouldn’t it be great if your spouse more willingly did what you asked? Both could lead to less stress and more happiness.

I believe professional success and personal happiness can be achieved with a lot less effort than you might imagine. If you understand how people typically think and behave and you’re willing to adjust your communication accordingly you’ll move more people to voluntarily do what you want. A big part of that communication change comes by ethically and correctly using the principles of influence.

The principles of influence are psychological triggers that are scientifically proven to move more people to a yes response. Think of it this way, if you knew the best way to hear “Yes” more consistently, wouldn’t you communicate that way more often? It would be foolish not to.

When I speak on this topic the word audience members use most often to describe me is passionate. They can tell I passionately believe what I’m saying. And I do because I’ve seen it work firsthand at home and the office. I’ve also heard from others. Here are a couple of examples:

“Brian Ahearn’s communication and teaching of Dr. Cialdini’s principles of persuasion into business applications specifically for our industry were extremely relevant and applicable in both of my work and personal life.”
– Greg Wilkerson, Sr. Vice President, Frost Insurance

“The class was so powerful for me personally, that it has extended past any particular work situation or sales situation. It has influenced almost every aspect of my life.”
– Christian Fanetti, Sr., Vice President, Consumers First Insurance

So let’s circle back to you. What is your why when you head to work each day? If it’s just a paycheck you’ll never put as much time and effort into your work as you would if you passionately believed what you do makes a difference.

Even if you don’t love the daily grind, can you see how the end results of your efforts and your organization make a difference for others?

I can’t answer your why for you. Nobody can. But taking time to really reflect might make the difference for you. Wouldn’t it be great to go to work each day with a little more energy, excitement and passion? It’s possible if you know your why and believe in it.

One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership

I recently finished an excellent book and wanted to share it with all of you. If you do what the author asks, I believe it will have a profound impact on your ability to lead yourself and others.

Mike Figliuolo, a friend, owner of thoughtLEADERS, and occasional guest blogger for Influence PEOPLE, just came out with his first book, One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. Mike’s basic idea is that every leader would benefit from critically thinking about his or her leadership philosophy and then committing it to paper.
I write a blog on the science of influence so you might be wondering how this ties into my weekly format. A light bulb went on inside my head when I read, “Leadership is inspiring and influencing people to act in ways they ordinarily would not.” This viewpoint ties in nicely with Aristotle’s definition, “Persuasion is the art of getting people to do something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if you didn’t ask.”
Mike writes, “But one thing all leaders have in common is the need to understand, articulate, and continuously improve their leadership philosophy and do so in a simple, straightforward way.” With that in mind he asks readers to critically evaluate four areas:
  • Leading yourself
  • Leading the thinking
  • Leading your people
  • Leading a balanced life

It’s not enough to read and think about each so Mike asks readers to put pen to paper and write their own leadership maxims. He tells readers, “Maxims are simple, clear statements that serve as reminders for how you want to behave and lead and how you want your team members to behave.”

And why is this exercise so important? I agree with Mike when he writes, “As you apply your maxims on a regular basis, your behaviors will become more predictable for your team members, colleagues, friends, and family. That predictability and consistency are the foundation of trust for all your relationships. You can achieve consistency through the maxims approach first, because you have written your maxims down as rules you’d like to live by and second, because you have shared those maxims with others. That sharing strengthens your accountability for living up to those standards.”
Writing leadership maxims will increase your ability to be an effective leader and persuader because it will help enhance your personal authority. This is true because when it comes to influencing others your authority relies primarily on two things: expertise and trustworthiness.
If you’re in leadership already then I’ll make the assumption that you’ve been paying your dues and have some relative expertise. Unfortunately that’s not always enough to succeed because much of your success still depends on getting other people to buy into your ideas and that’s where trustworthiness comes in. As you write, share and live your maxims your team comes to rely on you to lead them in the way you’ve laid out. Without worrying about “the boss,” your people are more free to focus on the tasks they need to because there are no surprises coming from you.
Nearly 20 years ago I did a similar exercise after reading Steven Covey’s classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. One of Covey’s admonitions was that readers take time to write a personal mission statement. If you want to learn more about that exercise and see my personal mission statement, click here. Suffice it to say, I’ve told countless people that exercise was one of the most impacting things I’ve ever done because I refer to my personal mission statement daily. Through sheer repetition it’s impacted my conscious and subconscious mind.
I really think the same benefit awaits you with Mike’s work in One Piece of Paper because he encourages readers to review their maxims continually and revise as necessary. If you’re a young person aspiring to move into leadership or someone who’s just made that move, imagine yourself defining your leadership style and using that with the teams you’ll lead over your lifetime.
How would you feel if your boss handed you one piece of paper and said, “Let’s talk about this because this defines how I lead and what I expect. I think it’s important for you to know this so there are no surprises and we’re on the same page”? I’m willing to bet you’d feel pretty good. On the flip side, if you are an employer looking to hire a new leader I’m guessing you’d be very impressed if someone handed you one piece of paper that defined their leadership approach.
Businesses take time to develop vision and mission statements but individuals rarely give that much consideration to themselves. My encouragement to you from the standpoint of becoming a person of influence is simply this – get a copy of Mike’s book, read it, write your maxims, share them with others and review them often. Do so and you’ll be glad you did and those you lead will respond by giving you their best as often as possible.
Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.